Lab-Grown ‘Mini Tumours’ Could Personalise Cancer Treatment

Source: Cancer Research UK

Summary: According to new research, testing cancer drugs on miniature replicas of a patient’s tumour could help doctors tailor treatment.

Mini tumours, also called organoids, are tiny balls of cancer cells grown in the lab. They can be grown from a tissue sample (biopsy). Scientists take cells from a tumour and place them inside a gel, where they’re free to grow as a 3-D ball. Researchers believe that growing the cancer cells in this way can more closely mirror how they behave inside the body. Researchers from the Institute of Cancer Research found that testing cancer drugs on miniature replicas of a patient’s tumour could help doctors tailor treatment. The research was carried out in bowel and stomach cancers, and other cancers of the digestive system. The technique could be applied to a wide variety of cancer types. Organoids have already been grown from a variety of different cancers, including liver, pancreatic and oesophageal. The study findings were published in the journal Science.

Mini Tumours Could Personalise Cancer Treatment

Scientists examining microscopic tumour organoids in the lab. Credit: Cancer Research UK

Researchers treated the lab-grown ‘mini tumours‘ with a range of drugs. They then looked to see how this compared to how successful treatment was in those patients. The approach found a drug that had a chance of shrinking a patient’s tumour in almost 9 in 10 cases. Drugs that didn’t work in patients also had no effect on the mini tumours. This suggests they could help predict when drugs won’t work. They grew mini tumours from biopsies taken from 71 patients with advanced bowel, stomach or bile duct cancer that had spread to other parts of the body. They tested 55 cancer drugs on the mini tumours, allowing them to compare the results to how each patient’s cancer responded to the treatment they were given. Mini tumours were more effective at predicting when drugs would be effective than looking for gene faults (mutations) in the cancer cells’ DNA.

Prof. Paul Workman said,  “having a better model for how tumours may respond to treatment could help accelerate drug discovery and even reduce reliance on animal experiments.”

More Information: Georgios Vlachogiannis et al, “Patient-derived organoids model treatment response of metastatic gastrointestinal cancers”, Science (2018). DOI: 10.1126/science.aao2774


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